Mickalene Thomas is on a roll. With works in four current exhibitions across the United States, a recent honor with the Asher B. Durand Award at the Brooklyn Museum Artist’s Ball, and a fall show on the way, the Brooklyn-based African-American artist has found continued success since she broke out in the art world in 2008, when her rhinestone-on-enamel portraits received glowing reviews during Art Basel Miami Beach. In 2009, Thomas went on to have her first New York solo show at Lehmann Maupin, leading Art + Auction to report that she was “reinventing the grand tradition of painting.”
Her paintings – brightly-hued rhinestone-embellished images of African-American women – exude color, beauty, and power, exploring themes of race, feminism, and sexuality. Inspired by Blaxploitation, the 1970s film genre that includes “Foxy Brown” and “Shaft,” her pieces capture the sassy attitude of the era. But painting isn’t Thomas’s only medium. She also works in collage and photography, taking on landscapes and still life, and cites Édouard Manet and Henri Matisse as influences.
In many ways, the Lehmann Maupin-represented artist’s personal style carries the same bold confidence as her artworks. At the Brooklyn Museum Artist’s Ball, Thomas went for a dapper disco look, sporting a tuxedo with a sequined lapel and a black-collared button-up shirt. For this edition of Tastemaker, Thomas describes her favorite paint-stained Maison Martin Margiela sneakers and her preference for Rick Owens knits. She also told us about her excitement over her latest role as mother-to-be with her partner, artist Carmen McLeod, who is expecting in August.